A unique combination of music, visuals, and community involvement, "Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home" unleashes the passion and urgency empowering the movement against mountaintop removal at this critical moment. The album includes all facets of the movement for justice and progress in Central Appalachia.
Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home
(c) 2009 Chad Stevens
The album is a sequel to 2004's successful "Moving Mountains," a musical compilation of artists and residents released by Falling Mountain Music. It was produced by Jen Osha, founder and Director of Aurora Lights, a nonprofit organization based out of Morgantown, West Virginia. All proceeds from the album will be used for grants and other educational and charitable purposes consistent with Aurora Lights' mission to raise awareness of the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. The first CD raised more than $6,000 for local grassroots work.
The first grant from this CD goes to support the community kitchen in Rock Creek, W.Va. This volunteer kitchen feeds activists and community members living in the Coal River Valley, many of whom are working to end mountaintop removal.
Continuing in their goal to "strengthen the connections within and between human communities and their natural environment by promoting environmental and social action," Aurora Lights has finished a second body of music and interviews. "Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home" follows a vein similar to their first release, but according to the producers the concept is branching out further.
The concept for 2004's "Moving Mountains" came from the idea that the music of the movement is important but not highlighted enough, and most of the songs were explicitly anti-mountaintop removal. The new album doesn't depart from the cause, but it does emphasize the beauty that remains in the communities of the Appalachian coalfields.
In other words, there is more to Central Appalachia than coal.
Central Appalachia offers much more than coal. Photo by Sam McCreery.
Through 14 musical tracks and additional interviews, the new CD expands upon Aurora Lights' first benefit CD. Like the first, "Still Moving Mountains" mourns the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining and celebrates the courage of coalfield resistance - while also celebrating the surviving communities' beauty and the residents' hopes for the future.
The producers selected music for "Still Moving Mountains" to emphasize that without a focus on intentional transformation to create a positive future, the beauty that remains in Appalachia will not survive the blasts and out-of-order court rulings. This is reflected in the music of the future-minded, as coalfield areas look ahead to renewable energy like wind farms and bring it into today.
The CD combines interviews with local residents impacted by mountaintop removal with a mixture of local and well-known artists: Kathy Mattea, Del McCoury, Blue Highway, Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers, Great American Taxi, and Andrew McKnight. Interviews from Mattea and Robert Kennedy, Jr., are also on the CD. "The combination of music and interviews on 'Still Moving Mountains' is especially intriguing," Mattea said. "I am excited about the musical, inspirational and educational combination here, and honored to be part of it." Aurora Lights production manager Sam McCreery believes this mixture creates an opportunity for everyone featured on the album. The presence of more well-known artists' names on a CD will give newer musicians a great opportunity for increased listening exposure, but it also points to the merit of the lesser known artists who are paired with some of the greats.
Vince Herman of Great American Taxi. Photo by Eric Peter Abramson.
This project gave all of the artists the opportunity to learn more about the movement for justice in Appalachia as they listen to each others' music and pass along their stories and lessons learned. Musician Vince Herman of Great American Taxi described his contribution as an expressive act of standing in solidarity with local activists like Ed Wiley. "I think music is a great way to tell a story that breaks people's hearts and stirs them to action," Herman explained.
"My family has a history in underground mining, and I have a deep love of West Virginia from the years I spent playing and studying there...The least I could do is write a song. The least we can do as a country is to stop MTR in its tracks right now before more of this great country is lost forever," Herman added.
Beyond the collection of music, the project goes hand in hand with a multimedia website titled Journey Up Coal River. The website features links to interviews with residents and activists in the Valley, as well as additional photographs and songs particularly related to the local area.
Aggressive mining practices spare neither Appalachia's people nor its countryside. Photo by Jen Osha.
The website adds to community efforts by mapping the Coal River Valley through the eyes of the community itself. On the website, listeners can use the map to pinpoint the setting of a song or issue, and find photographs, videos, interviews, and stories to deepen their understanding of the issue, and even get involved themselves. The website was developed with financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and represents an inspirational grassroots effort from many volunteers, residents, and organizations.
"The multimedia website also serves as a classroom educational tool, providing lesson plans layered in six themes," says the website's designer and copy-editor, Charles Suggs. "Professors from both within West Virginia and out of state have already started developing unique curricula based upon the CD and website."
The producers describe the site as showing both the human and the physical geography of the area, including not just the rich terrain and landscape but also the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people whose heritage in the Valley goes back for generations. Imagine you're listening to a rendition of "Black Waters." When you reach the lyrics "the hillsides come a-sliding so awful and grand," you can take the experience to the next level just by going to the map online.
There, a link will take you from the song about black water to the website of the Prenter Emergency Water Fund, with information about a community in the Coal River Valley being robbed of clean drinking water because of nearby mines and coal processing. You can listen to a resident of Prenter Hollow talk about her fight to find clean water and to protect the land from those who want to use it for their own purposes.
The CD features fourteen musical tracks and additional interviews. Among the artists are:
Lyrics: Long Journey Home
Lyrics: Mountain Song
Lyrics: Clear Cut
Lyrics: Cabin Creek Hollow
Lyrics: Blue Diamond Mines
"'Blue Diamond Mines' is a classic, written by Jean Ritchie. It encompasses so much about the history of mining, from union organizing to black lung to strip mining, to the monoculture that can hold people hostage and take away their choices.
The combination of music and interviews on 'Still Moving Mountains' is especially intriguing. I am excited about the musical, inspirational and educational combination here, and honored to be part of it."
Lyrics: State of the Art
Lyrics: Who Brought the Flood?
Lyrics: Buffalo Creek
"My brother, Steve, and I were staying in a small hunting camp on Bull Creek, W.Va. in the spring of 1972, when the "Buffalo Creek Flood" occurred. My brother's good friend, Keith, worked for the Department of Natural Resources, and was called out to help in the clean-up after the disaster. He told us about pulling the bodies of dead children from the mud and debris along that hollow. That experience left him angry, and his anger was contageous. My brother and I wrote the song in about an hour and I've been singing it for 37 years in hopes that people will not forget those children who lost everything."
Lyrics: Sweet Appalachia
Lyrics: Mountains of Blues
Lyrics: Scale Down
"Appalachia is a deeply sacred place. It holds a wealth of knowledge in ecology, and plant diversity that rivals even the Amazon. But beyond that, it is a magical mystical space to simply take a breath in. It is no great challenge for anyone to look at the excessive damage of mountaintop removal and recognize that it is one more painful step away from a balanced existence within the earth. This kind of mining is another crystalline example of corporate growth at the expense of the working class, offering short term jobs to hard working locals who need the income—but are given little explanation or apology for the devastating long term effects that mountaintop removal has on everyone. The work being done to raise consciousness about Appalachia is just as pressing as the movements to reduce prison numbers in our urban spaces or to discontinue the logging of our rain-forests. It is absolutely necessary for people to ban together to reduce the human impact on the world. We are each deeply connected to this living planet, both around the corner and across the sea...
RISE believes that it is our privilege and our full responsibility to use the power of music and art to continue to promote a deeper awareness of modern alchemy - we are each mixing and melting a recipe for sustainability, creating a palate for a healthy socio-economic-human existence... reveling in the value of each living thing around us. "
of the RISE collective
Lyrics: Appalachian Soul
"I think music is a great way to tell a story that breaks peoples' hearts and stirs them to action. My family has a history in underground mining and I have a deep love of West Virginia from the years I spent playing and studying there. One needs only one look at a mountaintop removal site to know that that land is lost forever. That breaks my heart. I can't imagine how it feels to those with deeper connections to the land than I have. A family grave destroyed, black water pouring out the homestead faucet, a fishing hole destroyed. The least iI could do is write a song. The least we can do as a country is to stop MTR in its tracks right now before more of this great country is lost forever."
Lyrics: Made by Hand
Lyrics: Shumate Dam